Mary, Mary Quite Twitter-Contrary

Mary Anderson

My friend Mary Anderson is 83 years old, and I had occasion to drive her and a another friend, Nancy, from Denver to the Limon Correctional Facility yesterday evening to participate in a program for offenders.  In Limon, we had time for a quick supper at Denny‘s before heading over to the prison, and this gave me a chance to demonstrate Twitter to Mary on my iPhone.  To say she was skeptical is to  exaggerate her openness to the whole thing.

I began in the usual way, Twittering the following message:

Showing my 83-year-old friend Mary how Twitter works at Denny’s. Please say Hi…

Before our grilled cheese sandwich, shrimp salad, and meatloaf had arrived, the replies began showing up in Tweetie on my iPhone. Teeg was first up, with a simple “Hi Mary! :)” Then came a chorus of tweets, a sample of which I read to Mary in our booth:

goldiekatsu – Say hi to Mary for me.

mjmontagne – Hello Mary and welcome to Twitter! My name is Matt and I’m “Tweeting” from my home here in Menlo Park, CA.

atlas100 – Hi Mary. This is fun huh?

RickWolff – Hello to Mary! Denny’s, eh? Avoid any food with the word “slam” in the name.

Jim_OConnell Hi Mary! Order the onion rings!

hollyhock100 – Hi Mary! After you’ve mastered Twitter get yourself a Facebook page. If my 85-year-old Mum can do it-so can you!

Otir – Hi Mary! It works very easily 🙂

abrahamlloyd – Hey Mary — welcome to the Twittersphere. Can you put up a picture of you and @lenedgerly ?

I thought Abraham had a great idea, and Nancy took the above photo with my iPhone 3GS.  Once it was up via Twitpic, the tweets just kept on coming:

mjmontagne – after you get her going on Twitter, what’s next?? Perhaps a Kindle DX for Mary? 😉 Great photo!

roxannedarling – Not only Hi to Mary, but Aloha too!

JBMONCO – Nice pic. Maroon color is good on Mary 🙂

jimhill – Hi Mary. Skip the Grand Salm at Denny’s!

CathleenRitt – Is the picture of and Mary at Denny’s in support of @ChrisBrogan taking his kids to McDonald’s? It’s a great pic either way

abrahamlloyd – You two look great! 🙂

stevegarfield – Say to Mary for me and have her read my mom’s blog. @milliegarfield

I didn’t make a Twitter convert of Mary, but she said she’d been following Twitter’s role in the Iran protests, and she really liked the compliment directed at her maroon sweatshirt.  She was humoring me.  We were having a great time.  But soon it was time to pay the check and drive to the edge of town where a partial rainbow had formed over the stark, squat buildings of the state prison.  Once past the security desk, wearing our red visitor badges, we passed through high gates and rolls of concertina wire and were met with the incongruous sight of little brown bunnies hopping along the grass on the walkway to the visitors’ area.

Mary has been driving the 90 miles to and from Limon to help put on programs for offenders ever since the prison opened in 1992.  The regular group of six men showed up for the meeting, and we all had a chance to participate.  When it was Mary’s turn to speak, I watched the faces of the guys, young and old, lifers and who knows?  They sat across a table from a very small woman with snow-white hair and a smile that came from inside.  I wish you could have seen the depth of their listening to her, and how she listened back.

I’m well into the book my friend Tom recommended in Casper, and I’ve begun daily 45-minute workouts as prescribed. Another piece of the book’s thesis is to commit, to engage, to participate in the lives of others.  Mary Anderson is Exhibits A through Z on the benefits of this kind of commitment.  She talks of the offenders she’s come to know over the years as if they’re family.  She gets angry when things go poorly, and she can’t understand why more people don’t volunteer for the programs which Colorado’s Department of Corrections enable to come into the prisons.

As I sat at the table listening to Mary during the meeting, I tried to imagine myself 25 years hence and hoped I’d see a little old guy with a head of snow-white hair, toting the latest pocket tech gizmo and caring about something strongly enough to fight for it and to drive for hours to make it happen.

Mary doesn’t need Twitter to connect. She was a good sport, putting up with a dollop of Twitter attention. I want to thank my Twitter friends who responded with such warmth to my invitation.  I had a ball.

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